Academic publishing is a mess and it makes culture wars dumber


Sokal would probably agree with most of that video, BTW. He’s a much more thoughtful dude than a superficial glance might suggest, and he is not actually opposed to postmodernism per se.

He’s worthwhile reading.


Yes! I was typing up a long reply to this post and you wrote most of it. I’ve worked in academic publishing of various kinds for thirty years or so and I still laugh at hoaxes but I am very wary of drawing conclusions from them. IMO, conclusions that are drawn from successful hoaxes are almost always wrong and conclusions drawing specifically from the hoax contribute to bullying that distorts the scientific/academic process and are little more than elaborate trolling. Hoaxing can demonstrate some fairly obvious (post-hoax) things–local corruption on an editorial board, the overinflation of a career, etc.–but almost always one of the things exposed by a hoax is that the hoaxer is also in the wrong.

I’ve been hoaxed and I’ve hoaxed. I’m an advocate of hoaxing but at the same time, I think conclusions drawn from hoaxes are seldom (maybe never) useful beyond the narrow context of the hoax itself. In fact, I’d argue that successful hoaxes are successful in large part because they work within a circumscribed context and they Inevitably break down outside of their native context.

I’d add: Humans make mistakes. Hoaxes point out our mistakes but, whew, we make a lot more mistakes than hoaxes. Journals, editorial boards, editors who can’t be fooled are fooling themselves, and us.


Have you been reading the internet lately? Say, since about 1996?

“Idolise peer review”?

Are you on the same planet as me? :laughing:


This is so sad. What better way to discredit every scientific study than by the likelihood that it was done for hire to give the financier what they want?
As the world grows more complex, great to know that knowledge is more and more debased and discredited.
Something similar happened with economists post-2008 with so many of the top economists more interested in providing good-for-their-own-business opinions and fact-based less so. (Actually, the corporate media do something similar. They skew their reportage to be audience and establishment friendly and doing so seriously distorts a story, so what?)


Ah, the Ted Hill thing. Whelp, AFAIA, the paper has been self published, now, let the Culture War people who want to disprove it without reading it first go ahead.

Perhaps, in this day and age where anybody can publish anything only, people who aren’t publishable in academic journals can put together their own journal. Worked for Charles Forte(and much later for the Fortean Times folks).


This was one of my points though: that the culture war stuff offers a covert opportunity (conscious or otherwise) for the publishers to paper over process failures.

Cynically, you could evoke it deliberately (“The safety of our students is our first priority”) knowing that the bellowing social media addicts–that Steven Pinker tweet! – will fire up with the Egregious Censorship Validating The Nazis stuff and drown out the sharper, quieter voices asking why prior publication in Math Puzzles Weekly was used in lieu of a second reviewer.


I remember once trying to look up a key famous line from the affair (perhaps “e=mc2 is a sexed equation” as attributed to Luce Irigaray) and found that the quote was pretty badly cooked.

I realized then that something was deeply rotten about the online skeptic/scientism/atheist culture where everday internet nerds went from 1996-2014 to feel normal. I finally read Sokal and Bricmont and found it interested and interesting and nothing at all like the furious culture of owning postmodernists/creationists/religions in which it had become a sacred text.



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